Cara Lynn Schultz~Spellbound
I had the opportunity to interview Cara Lynn Shultz the other day, and I had to work REALLY hard not to go all “Fan-girl” on her. Luckily, for my fan-girlness, the interview was over email so I was able to keep myself in check to some extent. This summer has been a great few months of reading for me, and Shultz’s Spellbound was one of the reasons for that. I absolutely loved this book! After reading the book, and reviewing it here, I knew that I HAD to interview this debut novelist. Of course, I was thrilled when she said yes to the interview. Again, I’m really glad it was all over email so she couldn’t see me jumping up and down.
One of the things I have learned about Cara Lynn during this is that she is really down to earth, loves a good bit of sarcasm, and might have jumped up and down with me-maybe. I have a feeling, though, there might have been a wise crack spoken in between jumps though. I believe you will find her as charming and lovely as I did. And if you haven’t read the book yet-you MUST. Really. It’s super-duper good. Read on for the interview…
Cara Lynn, Thank you so much for agreeing to do this interview with me. Spellbound has completely captured my heart and quickly become one of my favorite new books. To say I am anxiously awaiting the second book in the series now would be an understatement.
I am in LOVE with Emma and Brendan, as are many of your readers, and find the tension between them to be some of the best tension written in a LONG time. When you were writing those scenes, did you have to take a break in writing them, so you could breathe, as I did in reading them?? Seriously, I have read many reviews of Spellbound comparing Brendan and Emma to Bella and Edward from Twilight. How do you feel about getting this comparison?
Thank you! I have a lot of fun writing Brendan and Emma’s banter—the first draft of those scenes go pretty quickly. I don’t really approach them with an outline, either—I just let their conversation progress, and then I edit it down afterwards. But the hardest scene to write in Spellbound was the scene at Brendan’s house, where they figure out what’s going on. There’s a LOT going on there for Emma. There’s the normal teenage apprehension/excitement of being alone with a boy—THE boy—in his room. That’s already an overwhelming thing to process for any girl—but, of course, Emma also has to deal with what she suspects to be the truth about their relationship. It was challenging to find a balance between the paranormal and the normal.
I think the idea of star-crossed lovers is a timeless one, and when you’re writing a review, the immediate impulse is to compare it to something that’s well-known. I know from my own history of writing music reviews!
I read that you started writing Spellbound after a friend of yours found some small stories you had written for her to read on her train commute in Manhattan several years before. What a sweet story in and of itself! Had you ever thought about publishing a novel before your friend rediscovered these stories and brought them to you? Had this been a lifelong dream of yours?
Publishing a novel had always been a dream of mine, but with a full-time job, it seemed like it would remain just that—a dream. And I did enjoy my day job—I got to interview artists that I’d been lifelong fans of. Then Vanessa found those print-outs. I’d forgotten all about those stories, so it was like I was reading them for the first time—and I was pleasantly surprised to find that I enjoyed them. That was the kick in the butt I needed to motivate me. Then, it was just a matter of sitting down and writing. Back then, though, Emma and Brendan were named Claire and Alex, and they were seniors in college. I changed some things about the characters, but their essential personalities remained intact. I finished Spellbound in early 2009.
I know that you love the supernatural and that specific love began at the age of 7 when you wrote a play about ghosts. In Spellbound, you use quite a few of the paranormal elements. Which do you like writing about most? Witchcraft, ghosts, reincarnation?
It honestly depends on what’s going on in the scene. In Spellbound, I loved writing the book-within-a-book chapter. There’s a dark, creepy fairy tale element to it that I really enjoyed—and since it was very much a fairy tale, there were no limits on what I could have happen. The same goes with Emma’s dreams—anything can happen there. But the scene where Emma’s by the East River—that was probably my favorite “paranormal” scene. With Spellcaster, I’m having fun writing the witchcraft scenes—and there are a lot more of those in this go-around. There is one specific paranormal scene that that was challenging to write. After you read it, you’ll probably know which scene I mean.
In the back of the book, you provide a playlist of music to accompany certain scenes throughout the story. I’m a musician, but when I write, I like it to be quiet. Do you listen to music as you write or are these songs some you just felt represented the scenes or fit well? Did you create this playlist as you wrote or after it was all said and done?
I listen to music when I write—a mix of songs that I’m currently obsessed with, and songs that I loved when I was the characters’ age, as a way to bring me back to that teenage place and remind me of what it was like to be 16. I created the “official” playlist after the book was finished. It was a natural fit—the characters were already listening to music in most of the scenes anyway. Some of the songs are ones I did rely on while writing, since for certain scenes I try to match what I’m listening to to the scene. Since Emma and especially Brendan are devoted music fans, I wanted to do a mix of current bands (Paramore, All Time Low) with older bands (The Cure, Bouncing Souls) that would make sense for such music snobs to be into. I see Brendan very much being that person who brags about liking a band before anyone else liked them.
From magazines and websites to novels, you’ve written for many different outlets. Do you think it has helped you be a well-rounded writer to have written so many different things? Does doing one help or hurt the other? What would you suggest other writers out there do?
I’ve worked for magazines that catered to very different demographics. I think it all helps—it all went into what’s my writer’s voice now. You might not think that working at a mens’ magazine could have helped me with writing a YA paranormal romance, but actually, my time at Stuff did. Stuff was hysterical to read—the voice was very sharp, very witty. That’s why there’s so much humor in Spellbound—snarky jokes just became a natural part of my writing voice. I don’t think I could write something that didn’t have humor in it at this point. So I don’t think it’s detrimental at all to write for different markets.
Knowing you write for and work in other outlets, how do you find balance between each of those endeavors, writing books, marriage and life in general? Are there any rules you have in place that you refuse to break in order for you to have balance? Any rules your husband put in place??
It’s honestly all about scheduling. I’m on a deadline right now, and I do have a day job, so my schedule is pretty strict: I can only allow myself one or two non-writing nights a week, and barring any extenuating circumstances, my weekends are spent writing. We’re talking staying-in-my-pajamas, not-leaving-the-apartment writing. And I’ve always been a better writer at night—I do my best work at the 4 a.m. hour—so Fridays and Saturdays are especially valuable for me since I don’t have to get up for work the next day. I’m lucky that my husband’s been very understanding about me disappearing into my laptop. But like I said, it is about scheduling, so this past weekend we went camping for his birthday, and obviously, I didn’t bring my laptop with me.
Brendan seems close to the perfect guy. Is he the perfect guy to you? Why or why not? Is there any of Brendan based off of your own husband?
Brendan definitely isn’t perfect, but what fun would that be if he were? I’ve written some things from his point of view, so I do have some insider knowledge of how he thinks Brendan’s Holden Caulfield-y, in a way. Hates phonies, thinks he has it all figured out but he really doesn’t. His internal monologue is really conflicted—he’s a lot lonelier than he lets on, but hates everyone at school. He genuinely doesn’t care what anyone thinks of him, but doesn’t have the highest opinion of himself, either. He’s not a bad person, but before Emma, he was a little thoughtless, and he knows it. Since I first came up with the idea of Brendan so long ago, he isn’t based on anyone specific, but he’s got a lot of traits that I appreciate in people: He’s intelligent, he’s a smartass, he’s really into music, and he’s loyal. That basically describes everyone I’m close to, to be honest. Although all of those traits, plus general adorableness, do also describe my husband.
I relate to some extent with Emma. Out of all of the characters in Spellbound, who do you feel you relate to the most? Why?
I probably relate to Emma the most, since Spellbound is in her voice. She and I have the same sense of humor. And, like Emma, I went to a private school on the Upper East Side, and didn’t exactly fit in either. But there’s a little bit of me in all of the characters—except Kristin and Anthony, of course.
If you could bring any one character to life out of your book, which character would you choose and why?
Angelique. She’s got a much bigger role in Spellcaster, so she’s on my mind lately. Sincere apologies to everyone who wishes I said Brendan
With a debut novel coming out, I know you are probably bombarded with a ton of opinions. What has been the toughest criticism and best compliment you’ve been given as an author? How did, or do, you handle those comments?
One girl wrote me that she’d been having a tough time in school, and Spellbound really made things easier for her to manage, since she was able to lose herself in the story. That’s high praise right there, hearing that you were able to give someone who is struggling a little escape from their troubles. In terms of negative comments, the toughest criticism is when people don’t separate you from the work, and attack you personally. But I just think of what my friend Janet Mock told me: If everyone likes you, then you’re doing something wrong. She’s right.
Because we cover anything entertainment related, in conjunction with the books we review, we have a favorite question we like to ask. Who would you cast as your main characters if Spellbound were to be made into a movie and you could choose anyone?
Hmm, this is a hard one. When I cast it in my head, of course I have a dream cast that’s completely impossible because the actors aren’t the right age. A Buffy-era Michelle Trachtenberg playing Ashley. A Superbad-era Emma Stone as Emma. Logan Lerman if he looked just a little older as Brendan, or Johnny Depp if he were a teen. Allison Janney as Aunt Christine if she were older. Oh, I would so LOVE Allison Janney as Aunt Christine.
What authors inspire you? As a writer, if you could choose four authors, dead or alive, to make up your very own dream critique group, who would they be and why?
JD Salinger (it may sound trite, but Catcher in the Rye is one of my favorite books of all time, which I think you can tell from Brendan’s last name), Laura Ingalls Wilder (the Little House series of books were the first books that really got me into reading), Max Brooks (I’m obsessed with all things zombies) and Stephen King (to pick his brain on where he comes up with those fantastic, otherworldy ideas).
Finally, we like to end with a few quick, or short, answer questions fired at you. Tell us the first thing that pops into
- Beach or Mountains? BEACH!
- Scruff or clean-shaven men? A little scruff, but some guys look good with both.
- Biggest fear? Zombies. I’m serious, that’s not a flip answer. Any time I watch zombie movie, I have horrific nightmares, so I’ve forced myself to read zombie books and watch ALL the movies. I have an idea for a YA zombie book in the back of my head that I want to write. Facing my fears and all that.
- Tattoos or piercings? Both.
- Glass half full or glass half empty? Half-Full!